Tuesday, June 9, 2015

History Lesson Pt. 2 Recommends: Listening To Sports (Instead Of Watching Them)

Okay, I admit it:  part of the reason I like listening to sports on the radio is nostalgia, which honestly isn't probably a great reason for anyone but me.  But I can remember when I moved back to Indiana from Arizona.  Everything I had fit in my long bed, king cab S-10, but barely.  It was so hot that there was no point in using the air conditioner; it would only place an extra burden on the engine, robbing it of horsepower.  Nothing I tried could keep me cooled down and awake.  I tried soda, snacks, windows down, music blaring - I even bought a pack of cigarettes to give myself something to do.  At 10 AM I was hurtling through Tucumcari, New Mexico, realizing as I felt the scorching blast of air coming through the windows that this was going to be a particularly long trip, and it was just starting.

Hours later, in the Texas panhandle, I turned to AM radio in an act of desperation.  The sun was on the horizon, and the air temperature was cooling from very fucking hot to just plain old fucking hot.  I was so desperate to stay awake that I thought finding a fire-and-brimstone preacher or some backwater Rush Limbaugh clone would offend me enough to get a surge of energy from my anger.  The strongest signal was from a Texas Rangers game.  Thank God.  I settled into it, letting it's pace soothe me.  It was almost like an audio massage.  Or something.  The point is that I could focus on the game and be entertained, or let it fade to the background and provide the illusion of a spacious ball park on a warm summer's night right there in my truck cab.

Similarly, I can remember listening to Detroit Tigers games (and on Memorial Day weekend when we're opening up for the season, the Indy 500) on an ancient AM console radio up at the cottage in Lake Leelanau.  There is no TV up there; even if there was, there was no reception.  So evenings consisted of each person settling into their routines - reading, playing cards, working on a puzzle, detangling lines from fishing poles - to the dulcet tones of the games broadcast from Tiger Stadium.  Add in the sounds of nature coming in through the screen doors and you have a scene that is so quaint, so perfect, so Norman Rockwell-esque that you'll wonder if I just made it up.  (I didn't.)

But my nostalgia aside, listening to sports, either on the radio or streaming through the internet, is the way to go.  Aside from commercial breaks, it is free of distractions like screen crawlers, split screens, over-the-top graphics or other technical gimmicks that tend to dilute the moment.  The rise and fall of the action of a given event is much more palpable, much more intense without such novelties.  There are occasionally segments that break the flow of some sporting events - the "let's go back to the studio for an update on this other game" or the sideline reports that don't really add a whole lot to the game.  But not seeing the carefully coiffed reporters, the ultra-modern studio, or the dopey transitional graphics somehow eases such annoyances.

Listening to sporting events doesn't feel quite as insulting or childish. The event is the stimulus.  The action is the star.  And usually, as long as they're regional, the announcers know what they're talking about.  Give me a Don Fischer, a Bob Lamey, or a Vin Scully over 90% of the broadcasters on ESPN or Fox Sports*.  It's not that any of these guys are impartial.  What makes them great is that they're impartial enough, and they know their shit.  They're fans watching the game, and they're glad to be there.

Audio formats have the advantage over their televised counterparts when it comes to the less popular, far flung events played out over large areas.  Only hardcore fans of cycling, auto racing and golf can enjoy watching it on TV.  For the rest of us, a team of reporters spread around the course, chiming in when things happen is the way to go.  The grinding drama of the Tour De France plays out much better when teams of cycling journalists are covering cycling along the course.  It feels less invasive then a helicopter chasing the peloton and more interesting than watching the riders blow by a checkpoint; they are truly "embedded journalists".

Less clutter, better focus and often, better broadcasters make listening to sports way better than watching them on TV.  Try it - you'll see.

Besides football and basketball, here a some events to consider checking out:
 - Indianapolis 500
 - Baseball games
 - Tour de France
 - The Masters
 - The Kentucky Derby/horse racing

*-But please don't hold Bobby "Slick" Leonard or Harry Caray against us.

No comments:

Post a Comment